Michael Fulmer vs. Carson Fulmer
The last time that these names may have registered for the casual fan was probably half past never. One might say, "Hey! I am no casual fan. I know these guys". Great! Keep reading because this post is for you.
Carson Fulmer enjoyed a highly successful (24-3 1.99 ERA and 313 strikeouts in three years) collegiate career at Vanderbilt winning a College World series title in 2014 with the likes of Dansby Swanson and Walker Buehler. He was drafted in 2015 by the Chicago White Sox with the 8th overall pick. Michael Fulmer, on the other hand, was drafted straight from high school by the Mets. He has watched the Mets roster plenty of other young arms that have seen success in the pros. In 2015, Michael was traded to Detroit for Jerry Seinfeld's favorite Met, Yoenis Cespedes. Fulmer, now with Detroit's Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, is currently the team's top pitching prospect.
Carson Fulmer reminds me a lot of a much shorter Tyler Cippard when Clippard is at his absolute best. He has the same body type, the same goggles, the same moving parts during his pitch, and seems best suited for a relief role in my opinion. He works fast and has super electric stuff. He has 2 A+ pitches in his fastball and curve and often finds himself locking the knees of batters when he has both pitches rolling. Because of his short frame, he doesn't deliver the fastball in the same manner as Noah Syndergaard or Randy Johnson. He actually has some side movement that creates a horizontal tail. Watching certain tape of Fulmer, the pitch almost seems to gain velocity as it reaches the plate because it starts to cut away from left handed hitters and will cut in on right handed hitters which will tie them up at the plate. Managers will quickly find themselves needing left handed hitters to pinch hit when Fulmer takes the mound. However when Fulmer finds his control and hits corners, it won't matter what side the batter is on.
Carson Fulmer's curve is another great out pitch that he has in his arsenal. His curveball reminds me a lot of K-Rod's out pitch when he has it working well. This pitch and a fastball have worked just fine for K-Rod to be the current active leader in saves in the MLB. The curve doesn't bring a lot of loop to it, but is rather sharp and breaks late allowing for very few pitches left up in the zone.
According to Fulmer's scouting report, he does possess a changeup. It took me a while to find any video of it because he rarely uses it. If he can maximize the effectiveness of a change, it would open the door for him to be an elite relief pitcher or even pave the way of being a potentially dominating starting pitcher for the White Sox. Also, from an obvious standpoint, Carson Fulmer's career can last a lot longer if every pitch isn't a fastball that he puts his entire body behind or a curve that he snaps on every pitch. Perfecting this pitch will be the key to his success.
Remember when Aroldis Chapman entered the league and everyone loved seeing the radar gun hit 103 MPH? He was able to throw a ton of Cajun fastballs and generate swings and misses. Now, if we fast forward to 2014. Chapman started to incorporate a changeup. He got even better! Then he perfected the changeup in 2015 and pitched to the tune of a 1.63 ERA. This is the potential that Carson Fulmer possesses. No, he won't hit 103 MPH but 97 still sounds pretty good. However, he will be able to confuse hitters if he can develop his changeup as an early count pitch.
The hole in Carson Fulmer's armor is his command. He has a very violent delivery similar to Tim Lincecum in his early years, This delivery creates a head jerk that often inhibits him from looking at where he is pitching. This will lead to his body flying open and becoming a bit wild. At the end of his career at Vandy and into his minor league debuts his BB/9 rate was 3.5 (A+ ball was 3.7). This season in AA (through 4 starts), his BB/9 rate is up to 4.8. This rate would be devastating at the major league level. It just can't happen.
The Fulmers are both top pitching prospects, both have plus fastballs, work-in-progress changeups and they are both RHPs. The similarities between the two pretty much ends there. Michael Fulmer reminds me more of a CC Sabathia/Babe Ruth hybrid on the mound without the booze, cigars, and hot dogs. With his 6'3, 200 lb frame, he should not have a problem of wearing down over a long season and can definitely project as a #2-3 starter in the Tigers rotation. Like Carson, Michael's best pitch is his 98 MPH fastball. According to scouting reports, he can run his fastball in to the glove side with outstanding skill. However, moving away from hitters and using his fastball on his arm side he tends to leave the ball over the middle too much and can get beat by left handed hitters. This is a common trend with developing control as one can see with Carson as well. With development of that control, this can be an amazing plus-plus pitch that allows Fulmer to control the mound as well as the plate.
Michael Fulmer's 90 MPH slider makes him a great pitcher to watch. He uses this pitch as an out pitch as well as a chase pitch when he is ahead in the count. Numerous scouting reports grade this pitch lower than his fastball, but the fact that he can control this pitch much better than his fastball gives him a tremendous edge against hitters. He can run it away from right handed hitters and he can jam up left handed hitters with ease. It is a devastating pitch to see as it almost seems to pick up velocity at the plate.
His 84-86 MPH changeup is a bit more advanced than Carson's at this point, but he is still developing the feel for it to be used in high stress situations. Baseball Prospectus grades this pitch at 45-50. If he can develop this pitch to have a floor of 50, then he should have no problem becoming a #2 pitcher for Detroit. If this pitch isn't developed, he will have a ceiling of a #3 starter and won't be able to last as deep in games with his power fastball being thrown for 6 innings.
Again, the only hole here is consistent command. The slider is an amazing secondary pitch and a polished changeup will go a long way to establishing Michael Fulmer as a workhorse in the future. He isn't afraid to throw any of his arsenal which helps to not be predictable. If hitters can't sit on a pitch, they will continue to be a step behind him as he delivers and creates swings and misses. This season, his first in AAA, he has a 11.7 K/9 rate which is outstanding. Early on, in 2016, he has a 0.82 ERA for Toledo with a 14:4 K/BB ratio. His durability, confidence, and strength are all things that can't be taught at this level. He is well on his way to being a key piece to the Detroit Tigers rotation.
Basically, I really like both of these guys. I would love to have Michael Fulmer pitch 7 solid innings for me and rely on Carson Fulmer to bridge the 8th inning to get to my closer. I would have a lot of trust as a manager sending these guys out on my team. As for fantasy purposes, it is always dependent on your league. If it is deep enough I would stash both of these guys because we may see them yet in 2016. Their ETA should both be 2017. I would expect to see them both win roster spots out of spring training in 2017, as long as they are healthy. If you are only to able to roster one, I think Michael Fulmer, as a starting pitcher, is more valuable in head-to-head as well as points leagues. He is also closer to reeling in his command right now. However, I think it is important to grab either of these pitchers now because they will both be hot commodities next season!